Longwave, Terra Diablo
Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA • 6/10/08
It’s hard to believe that it was almost a decade ago that Swervedriver went on an indefinite hiatus after a series of record label mishaps. It seems even more impossible that Raise, their debut album and a staple of the UK shoegazer movement, was issued 17 years ago in 1991. But it’s 2008 now, and Swervedriver is back, currently on a worldwide reunion tour promoting their recently released career retrospective Juggernaut Rides.
Sounding strikingly contemporary, the band rolled into Boston’s Paradise Rock Club on a humid Tuesday night in June with New York City’s Longwave and some other friends along for the ride.
Terra Diablo, a young band from Scotland, opened the show in front of only a few dozen people. Singer Ian Fairclough’s Scottish growl, layered on top of their grungy punk sound, produced an interesting mix and plenty of hooks, although not quite as unique as I would have expected. Overall, they came off like a somewhat less dynamic version of Austin’s Trail of Dead.
After a quick break, Longwave took the stage, to much applause. Concert goers started pouring in at this point, building to a critical mass by the second or third song of their set.
If there’s one thing to be said about Longwave, it’s that they’re music industry professionals. Their entire set was extremely well polished and the band seemed to be in perfect sync throughout. However, the set list came off as a bit uneven at times, swinging back and forth between straightforward pop-rock that recalled a more chilled-out version of The Strokes to a far more lush, atmospheric neo-shoegaze that reminded me more of bands like Mercury Rev and Swervedriver themselves. It was this latter material, dreamy and sweepingly melodic, that really made an impact and was, at least for me, the highlight of their performance.
Finally, Swervedriver took the stage. Starting off a little bit rocky, by the third song into their set (“Duel”) their confidence was showing. Characterized by the same relentless pounding rhythm section and swirling wall-of-sound space rock guitar that distinguished albums like Mezcalhead and Ejector Seat Reservation well over a decade earlier, it’s really hard to believe that any time has been lost here. Everything sounded almost exactly as it did in the early ’90s — and that’s not a bad thing (at least in this case). Not at all.
Of course, frontman Adam Franklin has spent that time keeping busy with other projects. He’s recorded and toured as a solo artist as well as with a number of other projects (Toshack Highway, Magnetic Morning). Guitarist Jimmy Hartridge, on the other hand, has taken a break from the industry. You really wouldn’t have known it though; Hartridge’s chops were on par with the best, and the band was incredibly tight for such a recently reunited outfit.
Awash in a sea of effects, Swervedriver burned through 13 songs, ending with their most well-known single “Son of Mustang Ford.” The audience was entranced throughout, singing along to even the more obscure tracks that graced the set list, such as the encore performance of “Duress.” (Where have these people been hiding? These closet shoegazer revivalists? They need to be having regular meet-ups. I hope they’ll invite me.)
Listening to Swervedriver tear up their set list was a fuzzed-out spaceman-cum-headbanger’s dream, like listening to the shudder of the afterburner jets on a space shuttle that’s just hurtled through some impossible time warp. Over a decade later and, unlike most material from the early ’90s, not a single thing I heard Tuesday night sounded the least bit dated. In fact, it sounded more modern and more relevant than most modern radio rock.
Was Swervedriver always this far ahead of the curve? All signs point to yes.